Our villa rental in Tuscany was an absolute dream. My mom is an expert trip planner and found Casa Bella with a simple Google search. After considering so many villas available for rent, we chose Casa Bella because it looked so cozy, rustic and peaceful (the pool overlooking the vineyard may have played a part in this too!). Because we were visiting at the tail-end of offseason, the price per night was unbeatable—85 EUR a night for a villa that can sleep up to 14 people! Deal of the century….I mean even with just 5 of us, it was cheaper than what an average hostel-goer pays her night. On arrival we were greeted by Marzia, the owner, who left us all the information we could need about local towns, stores, markets and hidden villages. Then she handed over a box of soft, crumbly almond cookies covered in powdered sugar—my dad and I literally devoured the entire box.
We had views to the hills and vineyards in front of us and the tiny village of Toiano behind us. After our explorations throughout Tuscany, we spent a couple of nights wandering around the vineyards and exploring the tiny town at sunset. A couple of nights before we left, Marzia’s husband dropped off the most delicious homemade tiramisu I’d ever had (and I think that a few chocolate chunks on top of tiramisu is the secret!). Our stay at Casa Bella was perfect in every way.
One of the best things to do in central Italy is most certainly wine-tasting. After Adventurous Kate raved about her wine-tasting escapades in Umbria a few weeks ago, I knew we just had to take part in a tasting of both wine and Italian delicacies. Vineyards are everywhere in Italy and wine-tasting possibilities are endless. Although we were a little bit too far from Umbria where Kate got her drink on, I got in touch with Krista, who’s a fellow American (from So Cal like me!) living in Florence with her Italian man, for some recommendations a bit closer to our gorgeous villa, one of which was Castello di Verrazzanno in the Chianti region. Once we entered Chianti, I thought this is obviously wine country, vineyards were as far as the eye can see—up hills, down hills, amassing landscapes and between villas—it was a beautiful sight and Verrazzano was quite the treat! After a quick tour around the place we got to taste 4-6 different wines paired with crunchy bread drowned in olive oil, salt and pepper, cured meats of all kinds and fresh Italian cheeses with a hint of crema di balsalmico. After an experience like this, I’m definitely looking forward to enjoying another bottle of Chianti ASAP :). The only thing I would change about the tour is to ask Verrazzanno to scale the tour groups down a notch—30 people in a wine cellar is a bit too close for comfort! Although, I loved the wine, the food and especially the views.
It was a sad day when we left our gorgeous Casa Bella, we could have easily stayed another week and I would love to go back! Our flight back to Amsterdam left from Rome at the crack of dawn a day later so we decided to squeeze in a quick day-trip. I had been to Rome on my first trip to Europe and loved it—c’mon it’s Rome! My mom and Christian’s dad were excited to see the Vatican Museum & the Sistine Chapel and my dad was itching to get a few more bites of gelato before heading back to Holland :). Rome is big and crazy and it’s ancient beauty is really a feast for the eyes. What amazes me so much about Rome is how the city is riddled with ancient ruins, columns and temples. You can walk down the street, look to your left and oh look…ancient ruins! Seriously everywhere. I love how intermingled modern and ancient life is and in between there are winding alleyways lit with lanterns and strewn with outdoor terraces. One day in Rome is exhausting but we managed to squeeze in the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican (we bought tickets online and completely bypassed the line! Score!), the Colloseum and the taxi driver gave us a whirl around the old city before we returned to our hotel. And my dad ofcourse got his one last gelato :).